Excess body weight has serious consequences for health. Obesity is responsible for high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time, it lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It impairs the body’s responsiveness to insulin, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Obesity contributes to major causes of death and disability, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, and depression.
Methods have changed over the years, but when scientists recognized that what matters is not body weight but body fat, standards began to change. The body mass index (BMI), remains enshrined as the standard way to diagnose overweight and obesity.
The Inside Story of Belly Fat
What makes abdominal fat so harmful?
Scientists don’t know for sure, but research is providing strong clues. To understand these clues, you must first understand that belly fat comes in two different forms. Some of it is located in the fatty tissue just beneath the skin. This subcutaneous fat behaves like the fat elsewhere in the body; it’s no friend to health, but it’s no special threat either.
Fat inside the abdomen is another story. Visceral fat is located around the internal organs, and it’s the true villain. One of the earliest explanations for this was that visceral obesity was linked to over-activity of the body’s stress response mechanisms, which raise blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cardiac risk.
A newer explanation relies on the concept of lipotoxicity. Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat cells release their metabolic products directly into the portal circulation, which carries blood straight to the liver. As a result, visceral fat cells that are enlarged and stuffed with excess triglycerides pour free fatty acids into the liver. Free fatty acids also accumulate in the pancreas, heart, and other organs. In all these locations, the free fatty acids accumulate in cells that are not engineered to store fat. The result is organ dysfunction, which produces impaired regulation of insulin, blood sugar, and cholesterol, as well as abnormal heart function.
These explanations are not mutually exclusive; all may help account for the hazards of visceral fat. All in all, clinical observations and basic research results agree that excessive fat inside the abdomen is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.
The Ayurvedic View of Belly Fat
In Ayurveda, obesity is known as Medarog, which is caused by the aggravation of Kapha. Kapha is an Ayurvedic humor which is dense, heavy, slow, sticky, wet and cold in nature. Kapha governs all structure and lubrication in the mind and body- apart from controlling weight and formation of all the seven tissues – nutritive fluids, blood, fat, muscles, bones, marrow and reproductive tissues.
In a balanced state, Kapha gives nourishment to these tissues through various micro channels. However, when aggravated, Kapha leads to production of toxins in the body. These toxins are heavy and dense in nature and accumulate in weaker channels of the body, causing blockage of the channels. In the case of an obese person, toxins accumulate in Medovahi Srotas (fat channels), thereby leading to an increase in the production of fat tissue (Meda Dhatu). When the body produces more fat tissues, it causes an increase in weight.
The Ayurvedic line of treatment for obesity begins with the pacification of Kapha Dosha. Pacification can be done by eliminating Kapha-aggravating foods from the diet. Next, treatment protocol focuses on cleansing of the Medovahi channels through cleansing herbs so that excess weight and belly fat can be reduced.
Home Remedies for Belly Fat
- Take 1 cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon each of lime juice and honey and a pinch of black pepper. Have this on an empty stomach twice a day.
- Mix powdered long pepper, black pepper and dried ginger root in equal quantities. Have ½ teaspoon of this twice a day with lukewarm water.
- Boil 7-8 mint leaves in 1 cup of water for 20-30 minutes, and let it cool. Add 1 teaspoon honey to and a pinch of black pepper to the cooled mint water. Have this 2-3 times a day.
- Kravyad rasa- According to Bhaishjya Ratnavali, kravyad rasa is the best form to cure tundasthaulya (belly fat). It contains iron, copper, black pepper and other ingredients that are helpful in reducing fat, but this medicine should be taken under supervision only.